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Bernie Herpin, cookie chairman

Ranger Rich

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The fire and fury over the recall of state Sen. John Morse fades a bit now, and local Republicans wallow in their victory. Morse's replacement, Bernie Herpin, former Colorado Springs City Councilman and avid gun supporter, prepares for his new job as a lawmaker in Denver.

I, as the dozen or so loyal readers of this column know, tend to lean a bit to the left in these things, a Democrat from birth in Massachusetts, and here is where I jump in to light another fuse, railing against the goofy Republicans and pounding away at crazy Bernie Herpin.

One problem: Bernie Herpin is not at all crazy. And — gasp — I really like the guy. We've broken bread at a lunch table and talked a lot over the years and, well, he's about the nicest and most decent guy I've ever known.

So let's begin by giving Herpin a moment to tell of his strong Second Amendment views.

"I think the gun bills the state passed earlier this year will do nothing to reduce gun violence," he says. "If a violent person wants to commit an evil act, they'll find a way. A guy in California drove his car into a crowd of people a while back."

OK. Guns don't kill people. Cars kill people. Let's move on.

What, I ask Herpin, do most people not know about you?

"I will try to sound humble here, but I care about public service," he said. "I'm doing this not for prestige or power or money or the perks, but because I want to serve."

Don't all politicians talk like that? But then there's this: He currently earns more than $70,000 a year as a computer systems administrator at Schriever Air Force Base. In December, a few weeks before the 2014 state legislative session starts, Herpin will resign and dedicate himself to his new job. He will take a $40,000-a-year pay cut.

"I'm not kidding," he says. "I really love to serve the people."

Another surprise: Herpin may prefer the sound of a cello over the sound of a gun.

"I was a member of the Whistling Pines Gun Club here in town, an indoor shooting range, and I paid my dues for three years and shot there twice. Linda [his wife] and I go to the Colorado Springs Philharmonic every weekend during their season and we also go to just about every play and performance at the Fine Arts Center."

He laughs.

"I'm known as the Gun Guy," he says. "But the Gun Guy spends a lot more time at plays and concerts than he does shooting a gun."

There's another reason for the Herpin family's cultural weekends, too, one most married guys would recognize. Linda played in the Colorado Springs Youth Symphony when she was growing up here. She loves classical music.

"This," Bernie said, "is my payback to her for going to all of my political events over the years."

And if anyone actually hands out a Father of the Year Award, well, Bernie Herpin should be on the nominee list. Listen for a moment to one of his three daughters, Tiffany.

"He's one of the best men I've ever known," she says. "He has such a big heart. He's about other people. He does not, ever, think of himself first."

Example?

"He signed up to be a Girl Scout assistant when I was a Girl Scout," Tiffany says. "All these moms, and my dad. He was cookie chairman. Our garage was filled with Girl Scout cookie boxes. And he created a computer database — not many people even knew what a computer database was back then — to make sure everyone got the cookies they ordered. He was so involved. Every Girl Scout meeting ... well, there was my father."

The memories come back. Tiffany pauses to catch her breath.

"One Saturday he woke me up and took me to the hardware store. He bought supplies and he turned our backyard into a play area with an above-ground swimming pool and a sandbox."

Decades have rambled on by. And a daughter bestows the ultimate prize: "He has always," she says, "always, been such a great dad."

Rich Tosches (rangerrich@csindy.com) also writes a Sunday column in the Denver Post.

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